Ak Bars Kazan 5 Dinamo Riga 2
With a new coach in place following Zinetula Bilyaletdinov’s elevation to the Russian national team, many were curious about how Ak Bars would fare in the coming season. But the Kazan side, KHL champions in 2009 and 2010, showed few signs of struggling to adapt to the guidance of new chief Vladimir Krikunov with a comfortable 5-2 home win over Dinamo Riga.
The Tatar team has a reputation for starting the season slowly, but this term they disproved that with a goal after just 37 seconds of their opening game. Captain Alexei Morozov, ever-reliable, did the honors after an assist from Ilya Nikulin.
That left the Latvians, another team in transition after head coach Julius Supler left for CSKA to be replaced by Pekka Rautakallio, with it all to do from the start – and they were unable to haul themselves back into contention quickly. With Kristapks Sotnieks sitting out a big penalty, Dinamo found themselves 2-0 down on 11:08 thanks to Nikolai Lemtyugov.
That was the interval score, with Riga struggling to get a toehold against one of the leading contenders for honors this season, and there was little respite for the visitors in the second stanza. Two strikes from Kirill Petrov stretched Ak Bars’ advantage to 4-0, delighting the crowd at the Tatneft Arena before Jamie Lundmark finally got the visitors off the mark.
Early in the third period Dinamo converted a 5v3 powerplay, with Martins Karsums getting the goal to bring the game back to 4-2. But there was little prospect of a recovery, and Evgeny Medvedev wrapped up the win with an empty net goal on 59:38 as the visitors tried to exploit Nikulin’s spell in the sin bin.
Around the league
SKA St. Petersburg, expected to be among the top contenders in the Western Conference, gave new head coach Milos Riha a winning start at Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk. The star-studded Petersburg squad took an early lead when Tony Martensson fired them ahead after 60 seconds, but it took two goals early in the third period to put the result beyond doubt, with Dmitry Kalinin scoring powerplay efforts on 44:19 and 48:58. Neftekhimik hit back almost immediately through Maxim Pestushko, but SKA ran out 3-1 winners.
In the day’s early game, Sibir Novosibirsk overwhelmed Amur Khabarovsk 5-2. The Siberian side was one of the surprise packets of last season, and fittingly it was young star Vladimir Tarasenko who got them off the mark this time around. The captain of Russia’s under-20s World Champions opened the scoring on 14:34, and despite a quick equalizer from Petr Vrana there was to be no way back for Amur. Timofei Shishkanov put Sibir back in the lead, and second-period goals from Alexander Chernikov and Jonas Enlund settled the issue in the hosts’ favor. Konstantin Makarov pulled one back for Amur, but it was Maxim Krivonozhkin who had the final word on 55:48.